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Atheist Cub Scouts Win Legal Round Over Oath’s ‘God’ Pledge

April 27, 1991

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) _ Twin atheist Cub Scouts were confronted by angry parents at a pack meeting hours after a judge blocked Boy Scouts of America from expelling them for refusing to say ″God″ in the scouting oath.

″There’s a million people in this country who think you’re stupid,″ screamed Randy Lindenberg, a parent who argued with the 9-year-old boys and their father after Thursday night’s scout meeting was abruptly canceled.

″This is the reason I don’t want my boys to follow the same God you do,″ replied James Randall, father of twins William and Michael.

The boys were ousted from Cub Scout Pack 519 in January after announcing they didn’t believe in God and wouldn’t say the word ″God″ during recitation of the Cub Scout Promise.

The oath reads: ″I promise to do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people, and to obey the Law of the Pack.″

Earlier Thursday, an Orange County Superior Court ruled that the boys cannot be barred from attending Scout meetings until a trial decides whether leaders can legally expel them.

Judge Richard O. Frazee Sr. said dismissal from the Scouts would violate the twins’ constitutional rights, and he issued an injunction barring that action pending the trial.

The boys had been attending meetings under a previously issued temporary restraining order.

Randall sued the Boy Scouts after his sons were told they could not participate in troop activities unless they pledged their ″duty to God.″

In obtaining the injunction Thursday, Randall argued that the Boy Scouts is a public organization that should be held to state laws that prohibit discrimination against members on religious grounds.

″We’ll take it all the way to the Supreme Court,″ said Richard Votaw, a district Scout leader.

The Scouts contend their organization is private, and has the right to decide who should be a member.

″In our view, the order interferes with the constitutional rights of the members of the Orange County Council and the pack and the den to associate (with whom they wish),″ said attorney George Davidson, representing the Boy Scouts.

The ruling came hours before the boys were scheduled to receive Scouting beads symbolizing their progress toward earning a Bear merit badge, the completion of which includes religious requirements.

The judge said that Scout leaders cannot deny the boys the badge if they refuse to meet the requirement.

But the youngsters never got a chance to get the coveted Bear badge.

When the Randalls arrived for the pack meeting at Crescent Elementary School, television cameras were there. Scout leaders told the Randalls they could come in but the media would be barred.

When Randall and the news media protested, Scout leaders and parents abruptly canceled the meeting.

The scouting organization’s position has wide support, according to a November 1990 Associated Press-ICR Survey Research Group poll on the issue. Eighty-three percent of the respondents said the Boy Scouts should not take out the reference to God from their oath, while 11 percent said the reference should be dropped. Six percent had no opinion. The poll had a 3 point margin of sampling error.

The lawsuit is one of at least three anti-discrimination suits pending against the Boy Scouts of America.

In a federal court case in Chicago, Eliott Welsh contends his 7-year-old son was denied entrance to the Cub Scouts after refusing to sign a statement of reverence to God.

In Los Angeles, a trial is being held on a lawsuit filed by Timothy Curran, who was barred from being a Boy Scout leader because he is homosexual.

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